He’s one of the top brilliant left footers that the Stade Louis-II was fortunate enough to host. Winner of the Coupe de la Ligue in 2003 and a great player in the exceptional Champions League run during the 2003-2004 season, Jérôme Rothen left many memories in the Principality. In just two and a half seasons, he managed to forge a special relationship with the supporters of the Rouge et Blanc, who enjoy seeing him on occasion when he returns to the walls of Fontvieille in his new role. Today a TV consultant on RMC Sport and at the head of his own radio program, “Rothen Régale”, the former AS Monaco left midfielder took the time to open up before what some call the “Rothenico.” A beautifully flowing interview, frankly.
Hello Jerome. First of all, what does this rather special match between your two former clubs mean to you?
It brings back a lot of memories above all. Because I spent nine years of my career between these two clubs (two and a half years at Monaco, six and a half at PSG, note). So that’s a big part of my footballing life. I have incredible memories, especially at AS Monaco. I would say this is my adopted club, because it’s the one that introduced me to amazing things. In particular, I was called up to the French team thanks to this club. I played in the European Cup and won titles here too, so just for that it holds a huge place in my heart. And then PSG is something else again, because it is the club “where I was born”, not far from the Parc des Princes by the way. It was a childhood dream to play there. So this match is something that some have called the “Rothenico” (laughs). Every year, I watch this fixture, whether it’s in Monaco or at the Parc. Besides, to be really honest, when I watch this game, I find it hard to decide between myself.
It’s difficult to make a choice for you?
Yes, because you know perfectly well the attachment I have for Paris Saint-Germain, it’s no secret. But what I experienced in Monaco, I think will be something I keep all my life. I have so much respect for this club, that I can be of two minds. And then there is also the fact that PSG has dominated the other teams in the league for many years now, that it has won almost all the titles, so there is also the desire to see the challenger bring down the leader in a way.
🔙 5 mai 2004 :
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) May 5, 2017
Especially since in just two and a half years you had some incredible experiences with AS Monaco…
Of course. But above all, my progress has followed the rise of the club since Didier Deschamps had a difficult start when he took over the team. I was there at the beginning, it was then a group that was rejuvenated especially in the second season, while retaining the guiding idea of Monaco which is to keep the key players surrounded by young talents. He managed to create a certain chemistry, which meant that you didn’t set limits for yoursel. Because this team was constantly improving, like me. When I arrived from Troyes, I had a lot of ambition when I signed for Monaco, and this desire to take things up a notch. In the end, in a year I did more than that, I finally reached the France team quite quickly. And looking back, when you are part of the national team, there is a sense that you are the best in the league at your position, which gives you enormous confidence. One can recall as well that we also reached the Champions League final, eliminating incredible teams (Real Madrid, Chelsea) along the way, and playing some wild matches. And that was also confirmed in Ligue 1, so it was not a coincidence. Quite honestly, we had an exceptional level of play. Today with my role as a consultant I devour games, and I can say without pretension that we were in the top 3 of the best teams of the last twenty years. They were a fabulous team.
Would you say it’s the team, the locker room that has been the most important for you in your career?
Every experience is different across the clubs, as the players are all there only temporarily, and this is true every year. For example, I remember that at Troyes we had much less known players, but a group that lived very well. We were having a blast, even though I was younger and didn’t have the same level. But experiencing it at AS Monaco, with those players, with this carefree start and then this chemistry that was created in the group, this state of mind, that was something else. We were eager to win, even in the little games in training. After that, it was a group that could also yell at each other, but immediately we would come back to our places and it would start again. As a player, you are looking for this. And besides, during those two years, it’s very rare that we had a bad game. A bad half- yes, but never a bad match for 90 minutes. We always gave a good account of ourselves.
Have you found this anywhere else?
When I changed clubs afterwards, I was always looking for that. For me that was football. The competition, the high level, the media, the relationship with the supporters, it’s great. But what’s even more essential is sharing that same state of mind in the locker room, having the same ideas, the same joie de vivre. It’s something I’ve never experienced anywhere else. And I’m not the only one to say it, you can ask all the players of this generation, even the ones who didn’t play a lot. It was the great strength of Didier Deschamps for creating that. All the players he had chosen to be leaders in the locker room or on the pitch were incredible around this time. In any case, I had my best period in sport. When you have known the highest level, you know that it goes through this to win titles. You are obliged at some point to prioritize the collective to the detriment of of individual play. And that still holds true today. Regardless of the level at which the team is playing, I also experienced that in Bastia coming back from Ligue 2, that you must have a common thread, this conquering state of mind all season. We experienced it to the extreme in Monaco, we were all brothers in the locker room, it was incredible. Still, we all had big ambitions, and it couldn’t be easy to support 25 players and get the most out of them, even for those who weren’t playing.
Do you have the example of a player who had a hard time getting used to the idea of not playing?
Yes I think that Marcelo Gallardo is the best example. He was a great player, but he was not in Didier’s team every week. And that, he didn’t accept. He found it hard to believe that he was competing with Ludo (Giuly) and me for a spot on the team, which was playing 4-4-2. So he left at the start of the 2003-2004 season. At the same time, it was difficult to see your captain off, and Didier (Deschamps) considered me the technical leader of the team, so he gave me the keys to the truck. Marcelo had a hard time accepting that and suddenly he left. But that respects itself, I understand.
Going back to your personal experience in Monaco, is there a game, a goal or an assist that immediately comes to mind?
My first goal for AS Monaco was in the Coupe de France against Guingamp. I had hit the top corner at the Stade Louis-II. I had just arrived and had had some adjustment issues the first few months, and that goal gave me nothing but confidence. This one was important. But the one that struck me the most, and which underlines the relationship I had with my forwards, was the one that Ludo (Giuly) scored against Lens. I think it’s the best goal of his career, he’s said it before. But the cross that I put in for him sums up my relationship, the bond I had with the attackers that I was trying to set up in the best possible way. That goal was incredible honestly.
Le ✂️ acrobatique parfait par @Ludovic_Giuly 😍
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) June 27, 2020
Is there regret over not having been champion with this team?
Yes, that’s for sure. The two years we finished second and third, we were better than Olympique Lyonnais. They know it by the way, because each time we won. Especially the last year (2003-2004), where we beat them 3-0 in the league and we won 4-1 in the Coupe de France ten days later. These are matches that are true to the score, in the supremacy of the championship. Besides, if they are honest, they know why they were champions in 2004. It’s because we left a lot of energy on the pitch because of the Champions League. This is indeed the only regret that remains over these two years, of not having been champions of France, because we deserved it. Looking back, it’s still a huge source of pride to have had this experience in the European Cup. Every time I go back to Monaco people still talk to me about it, even though it was 16 years ago! The respect people have for what we have done is a point of incredible pride.
Do you think AS Monaco has so many supporters all over France thanks in part to you?
I often fight against this misconception, this denigration of the atmosphere at Stade Louis-II and the number of AS Monaco supporters. Even on the air today, I say, “you guys are wrong.” When Monaco have a team that plays good football, and that has often been the case in the history of the club, not just in our time by the way, you have enthusiasm. Historically you have always had amazing players and great play, it is not as it was yesterday. So when you have that in Monaco, people come to the stadium. So indeed you have a city which is small, so you cannot have a base of 50,000 faithful, but with a beautiful game you attract the crowds. I remember that during my two years, and not only that of the epic Champions League, the stadium was filled almost every time, even for average games. Because people are passionate and want to have a good time. Even before I got there in 2000 when they were champions, there were a lot of people at the stadium, because they were playing well.
Tell us a bit about your time in Paris…
Although it was not a great period for PSG compared to what we are seeing now, I have no regrets just that it was my dream to play for the club of my city. The only regret at the end is that when I signed we were told that there will be big investments to build a big team. And those investments ultimately never happened. With Canal +, however, there were the means. And then when Colony Capital came along, you felt like they weren’t there to invest a lot. In Paris, as in Marseille elsewhere, you have a lot of pressure. So, more than anywhere else, you need international players, talent on the pitch that is far superior to other clubs. And that was not our case, since there were very few of us that were internationals. So you felt it on the pitch. Then there was the desire to bring young players along, but when you have such popular pressure, it is difficult for the players from the academy. And when your name is PSG and you find yourself playing for survival in 2008, for me who arrived with ambition with Pauleta and Yepes in particular, it was tough. When it’s the club of your childhood, however, you put a lot of love into it.
Despite everything, did you have some wonderful moments as well in your favorite club?
Personally, even the year of the relegation battle, there was pride in not giving up and getting through. Honestly, without taking myself above another played, if I did not have the level that I had the year of the relegation battle, like two or three key players, PSG would not have stayed in Ligue 1. For me it would have been a black mark to go down as the club had never known Ligue 2. Then, to win a title every two years, because I won two Coupes de la Ligue and two Coupes de France in six years, it is already a feat. Even the year of survival we made the Coupe de France final against Lyon, which we wanted to win by the way, and which we only lost in extra time. There are also quarterfinals in Europe, certainly not in the Champions League but in the Europa League, where we are narrowly eliminated against Benfica and then in Kiev. After I left and the club entered another dimension with Qatar. And it proves that the investments weren’t big enough before. Despite everything, I have no regrets once again.
You had the chance to make your own dream in the end…
Yes exactly. Either way, in a player’s career there are two key points. First you make a career plan, and personally my dream was to play for my club, which I managed to achieve. Then you want to touch the stars, and for once, it was with Monaco that I touched this goal. Then also by becoming an international, because if I had been told at the start of my career that I would have the chance to be in the France team, I would have laughed. And above all to win titles afterwards and reach the Champions League final with your club. For me, I’ve made my two dreams come true.
Is that also why you have kept a special attachment to AS Monaco?
Obviously. Because on the face of it, AS Monaco was not a love that was expected. On the contrary, I almost even signed for Nantes, because they finished champions the year before my arrival. But for me, even as a kid, Monaco was a stronghold of French football, and that’s why I decided to join this club rather than another. Even today, I am fighting so that we do not forget what AS Monaco has done for French football. Because if you take away everything this club has done in the Principality, if only on European results, there isn’t much left. So it’s a love that was never expected but one that still follows me today.
« On a tout donné pour ce club"
⚽ Morientes, Giuly, Evra, Rothen… En 2004, l’#ASM réalisait l’exploit et atteignait la finale de la Ligue des Champions. #tbt #MonacoMakes #LigueDesChampions@AS_Monaco @MorientesNo9 @Ludovic_Giuly @Evra @RothenJerome pic.twitter.com/LlT9G7Q1FA
— MonacoNow_fr (@Monaconow_Fr) June 18, 2020
What is your view on the club’s new sporting project?
I’ve had the pleasure of having Niko Kovac on Rothen Régale on RMC. We had a really good conversation, and it confirmed the feedback I had gotten, because I had inquired before. He is someone who is very respectful of AS Monaco’s past. And that I think is the basis, when you have a foreign coach coming in, to soak up what the institution has done in the past and the club’s culture. This is really the feeling I had following our exchange. Then you have to put things in place and have an interesting style of play. In Monaco there have always been teams that play good football, with talented, technical players. The princely family itself was even adept at this. And that’s kind of what we manage to find in sequences under Niko Kovac. So sometimes they lose points, they make mistakes, but overall I think he’s on the right track, that the game plan is consistent. And what’s also important is that I feel like we’ll give him time. There is dialogue, communication, respect, and the whole, again is very cohesive and exudes serenity.
Tell us a bit about the Stade Louis-II…
The first time I played in this stadium was in the late 90s, with Caen. So when you come to this stadium it’s special, because already you don’t expect to see it. Then when you come back onto the pitch, it’s always different for the opposing team, and you tend to be lulled into a sense of security. Whereas, on the other hand, AS Monaco players and staff know the context and have to make it their own. It is definitely its own force. There is really a special atmosphere, and when you get to make that your own, it’s very difficult for the opponents who come here. Then as a consultant, when I come to the Stade Louis-II, it’s with desire, and additional excitement even if I’m a little out of touch.
Are you proud to say that you have been remembered by the Red and White supporters despite playing just two and a half years?
Yes, certainly. Today I have a schedule and a job that doesn’t allow me to come here often, but I don’t know, I feel that the adventure is not over. Because I am still a football fan. I’m having a blast on the air and hope I manage to keep that adrenaline pumping, but you miss the pitch every now and then. And if there is one club today where I know there is something that can be done again in the future, it is in Monaco. I only stayed two and a half years at this club, but something really powerful happened.